Sunday, January 12, 2014

Like the Column of Fire, He Goes before us.

Christ is baptized to make the water holy
Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

John the Baptist hesitated to baptize Jesus when the Lord came to him at the river Jordan. He said: “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me.” However, the Lord insisted because “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Why would the Holy One desire baptism? Wasn’t John’s Baptism a baptism of repentance? How could the Lord Jesus desire to be baptized when in fact, he had no sin to repent for? St. Maximus of Turin gives this answer: “Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the waters which he touched. For the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water. For when the Savior is washed, all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages. Christ is the first to be baptized, then, so that Christians will follow after him with confidence.” St. Maximus looked back at the story of the crossing of the Israelites on the Red Sea. The people of Israel followed a column of fire that went before them through the Red Sea. The column first went through the waters to prepare a path for those who followed.

“… in the column of fire [Christ] he went through the sea before the sons of Israel; so now, in the column of his body, he goes through baptism before the Christian people. At the time of the Exodus the column provided light for the people who followed; now it gives light to the hearts of believers. Then it made a firm pathway through the waters; now it strengthens the footsteps of faith in the bath of baptism.” But Christ went before us not only through the ceremonial waters of the River Jordan. The Lord kept referring to a Baptism that he had to receive and this Baptism would be the baptism of his death. The waters of baptism do not simply refer to the cleansing of sin. It primarily refers to death and resurrection. His immersion in the waters of the Jordan was symbolic of what he would later on do: he would cross the waters of death in order to pass from this world to his Father. By doing so, he will obtain for us forgiveness of sins and also our adoption as children of God by sending the Holy Spirit to us through our own baptism. The mystery of the Cross continues to loom over Christ. This time the shadow of the Cross hovers over the waters of the Jordan. The Cross makes sacred the waters. The Cross gives to us the Spirit-filled waters of baptism. Had Jesus not died on the Cross, the Baptismal water would remain to be ordinary, natural water…without power to save. It would be nothing more than a mere symbol of repentance and nothing more. It is the death of Jesus on the Cross that sends the Holy Spirit upon the Baptismal water. Thus, the Spirit-filled waters of Baptism are able to wash away original sin and bring about our adoption as sons and daughters of God. Jesus Christ was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and power. He is the one who sends the Holy Spirit to us. He heals all of us who were oppressed by the devil for God was with him.

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. 

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